Welcome to MovieMaker’s new blog, Directing on a Dime, where indie moviemaker Andy Young provides tips and insight for moviemakers whose budget is more The Blair Witch Project than Avatar. Have questions for Andy about low-budget (or no-budget) moviemaking? Ask away at .
When you’re writing a script, the possibilities are endless: Crosstown car chases, faraway galaxies, hundreds of extras running in fear across the city as it’s engulfed in flames and destroyed by giant robotic salamanders from… well, you get the idea. But when you’re producing and directing a script, especially if you’re a first-time director on a tight budget that doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room, the reality is that your possibilities are a little more constricted. Even with all the affordable tools available in the modern digital age, the logistics of pulling together a big cast and crew hasn’t gotten that much easier. So, as with every other aspect of moviemaking, there are restrictions. And, just as with every other aspect of DIY moviemaking, you have to find ways to work around them.
Now, if it is your first time out (and especially if you’re going to be in the director’s chair), I would recommend writing for less: Fewer locations, fewer actors. Great movies like Alien, 12 Angry Men and Reservoir Dogs are infamous for utilizing one confined space and a small number of actors and, most importantly, still telling a compelling story. It’s not like I’m saying “Go make 127 Hours,” but I believe you can tell a great story for less and still end up with something that is worth watching. Think about it: The less you have to worry about getting shooting permits or dealing with actors’ scheduling conflicts, the more time you’ll have to focus on making the locations you do have look amazing and working with your actors to bring out their best performances. Ultimately, your film will be better for it.
In my low-budget feature The Legend of Action Man, we made a classroom look like a news station, a basement look like an evil lair and an apartment look like, well, somebody else’s apartment. My point is that, in many cases, the job was done for us. Before we started on the script, my co-writer and I knew what we did and didn’t already have access to, so we wrote with the available locations in mind. It never took away from the story we wanted to tell, and sometimes it actually made us even more creative. We wrote scenes we never would have thought of if we didn’t have some of those built-in restrictions. So don’t just write what you know. Write what’s available. Kevin Smith had a convenience store. What do you have?
Andy Young is a director, editor, writer and composer living in Austin, Texas. At the age of twenty he has produced over 100 short films and one feature film, The Legend of Action Man, which he shot on a budget of $200. He now lives in Austin, where he continues to make low-budget shorts with his sketch comedy group Dingoman Productions.